Holy Land Pilgrimage 2017

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, 22nd May 2017 – 1st June 2017

Deacon Jim along with his wife Barbara  embarked on a 10 day pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Here is a day by day diary of their experiences.

Jim writes:
Day 1 we had an early start celebrating mass at Bethphage, close to the Mount of Olives, which marked the beginning of Jesus’ triumphant journey to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. There were later visits to the Garden of Gethsemane including the Church of Pater Noster. Following Lunch we followed the way of the cross on the Via Delarosa to The Holy Sepulcher.



Holy Land pilgrimage day 2:

We began today with mass in the beautiful setting of Shepherds Field, site of the appearance of the Angel to to Shepherds when Jesus was born. Mass was inside one of the Caves which would have been customarily used by The Shepherds at that time. We then visited the Latin Patriarch, seminary for students in formation to the Priesthood in Palestine. The afternoon was taken up by a memorable visit to Bethlehem including the special moment at the spot where Jesus was born.



Day 3 of the Holy Land Pilgrimage:
Our day began near the site of the Upper Room where Jesus and the Apostles shared the Last Supper.Also the site where Peter infamously denied Jesus 3 times before the cock crew. We then made our way to the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem and a visit to the Western “Wailing” wall. Thursday is Bar Mitzvha day and there were many families celebrating their sons’ special day. We ended the day at the birthplace of John The Baptist where we said the “Benedictus ” together, the special prayer dedicated to him.



Holy Land Pilgrimage day 4:
Today we started with mass in the Cathedral of the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem followed by an audience with the Bishop of Nazareth. Following Lunch at the Franciscan run Notre Dame hotel we travelled to the Muslim village of Abu Ghosh which lays claim to be the site of the biblical town of Emmaus. The Abbey of St Mary of the Ressurection is situated in the Hills of Judea in the place where the Arc of the Covenant resided prior to King David taking it to Jerusalem. We ended the day with Holy Hour at the Garden of Gethsemane in devotion to Jesus’ agony in the Garden prior to his crucifixion.


Pilgrimage to the Holy Land day 5:

We began today with mass at a Franciscan chapel on Mount Zion, close to the place where Jesus celebrated the first Eucharist at the Last Supper. We then journeyed about an hour and a half to the historical site of Masada, the place where King Herod the Great built his fortress overlooking the Dead Sea. We accessed the partially renovated site by cable car, at 3 minutes, a much faster journey than it would have taken when originally built. From there we made the short trip to the Hotel Lot on the shores of the Dead Sea, where following a lovely lunch we took the opportunity to bathe in its therapeutic waters. This is the lowest point of dry land on earth-430m and the sea’s high mineral content gives it a surreal buoyancy enabling you to float easily in the water and its slightly oily feel leaves your skin soft and smooth.


Holy Land Pilgrimage day 6:

Our final full day in our Jerusalem base began with an early rise for mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of both the crucifixion on Calvary, and the tomb of Jesus, the two most sacred places of the Christian Church. This special place is shared by other Christian denominations, and even at 7.30am many worshippers had gathered for their own liturgies. At just 30 minutes, the mass had to be short but was nevertheless a truly wonderful spiritual experience. In the free time we had for the rest of the day, Barbara and myself took the opportunity to walk the Walls of Jerusalem which was another fantastic experience.

Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 7:
Today marked the end of our Jerusalem based journey and we departed to our new base at Tiberius on the the shore of The Sea of Galilee. Our day began with mass near the site of the tomb of Lazarus in Bethany. It was a beautiful church which told of the raising from the dead of Lazarus. Our Journey continued into Judaea a hostile and barren wilderness where we remembered the story of the Good Samaritan. We then moved on to Jericho to see the famous sycamore tree of Zacheus and the mount of the temptation. Following lunch we travelled to the River Jordan and in a special service, were able to renew our baptismal vows. I also obtained some water of the Jordan to use in Baptisms back home. On arrival at our new Hotel we were soon changed and took a cooling dip in the Sea of Galilee.



Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 8 :
5am: Today has just begun with a beautiful sunrise over the Sea of Galilee. I was joined by Barbara and Angela and then had a 6am swim prior to breakfast.







Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 8 (part2):

Following breakfast we journeyed to Cana, site of the first miracle when, at the wedding of Cana, Jesus turned water into wine. The seven married couples on the Pilgrimage then renewed their marriage vows. It was a poignant moment for all who took part. We then headed for Nazareth and visited a living museum showing life as it would have been for Jesus as a young man growing up as an apprentice carpenter with his family. Next was mass followed by The Angelus at the beautiful Basilica of The Annunciation, the site where the Angel Gabriel appeared to the young Mary. Following Lunch we walked uphill to Mary’s Well at the Greek Orthodox Church of St Gabriel and obtained water from the well to bring home. We ended today’s journey at the summit of Mount Tabor, site of the Transfiguration when Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus

Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 9:

Following another spectacular sunrise and 5.45am swim in The Sea of Galilee we set off on the short journey to Capernaum. This was the place where Jesus based himself for much of his ministry around Galilee. It was in this area that Jesus performed the miracle of multiplication (when he fed the five thousand from five loaves and two fishes). It was also here that Jesus conferred the Church into the Hands of Peter when he said “feed my sheep”. We celebrated mass on the shore of Lake Galilee, a marvellous occasion before moving onto the Mount of the Beatitudes (where we return tomorrow) for Lunch. For Lunch, we ate fish from the Sea of Galilee (called Peters Fish) the most abundant fish caught there. In the afternoon we ventured by boat onto The lake itself for a trip back to Tiberius.Whilst on the boat, we took a period of quiet reflection in consideration of the many wonderful acts carried out by Jesus in and around the Lake.

Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 10 (final day):
With bags packed and coach fully loaded with luggage and Pilgrims, we set off for our final mass which we celebrated on the mount of the Beatitudes, the site of the “sermon on the mount”. Our journey home then took in a stop at Caesarea where St Paul was imprisoned prior to his trial and subsequent martyrdom in Rome.

Now on the way to the airport our Pilgrimage draws to an end. It has been a wonderful experience. Well organised and well led by Fr John Gorman and Fr Mike Fitzsimons, educational, and spiritual. One Elderly lady admitted that it had been physically tough at times but she would not have missed it for the world. It’s an experience I would strongly recommend anyone who is able, to partake in. New friendships have been forged which will last a lifetime.
God Bless
Deacon Jim



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